Last night MySociety held a meetup in Brighton. MySociety are the people behind FixMyStreet, TheyWorkForYou, and WhatDoTheyKnow. I don't know whether they are making the most of their 'data exhaust', but they must be building up some useful datasets behind the scenes.
The talks were about open civic data.
The first was from Shardcore, a Brighton-based artist, who is visualising and using data in interesting ways. He is also exploring the boundaries of social data.
The second was about MySociety's international efforts. FixMyStreet is spreading to other countries because they have open sourced the core package. They made some good points about documentation and assistance being essential to other people implementing the system. They have also found that cultural, technological, and socialogical differences affect the outcome. In the Philippines their work led to areas being mapped in OpenStreetMap.
The third and final talk was from Jason Kitcat, the leader of Brighton and Hove Council. I had a chat with him beforehand and he was very approachable. It seems that he was a bit of a data geek before being a councillor and was involved with Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) as well as MySociety. It sounds like the council has the standard problems with open data: lack of resources; lack of experience; not knowing which data to publish; not publishing unless they will keep it up-to-date; getting low usage when they do publish.
Personally, I am disappointed that Brighton and Hove Council haven't made use of the large community of techies in the city to help build the most radical open data system in the country…but hey, all initiatives are popular at the beginning then quickly tail off.